Hartford First Responders Take Part in Annual Softball Tournament

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Hartford police and fire battled it out at Dunkin' Donuts Park during the fifth annual softball game, but the mission behind it is four decades strong.

The departments have worked to make sure language never becomes a barrier when it comes to saving lives. The tournament honors Julio Lozado, a child that died on May 16, 1979 while in an abandoned garage fire.

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"Because there were no Spanish speaking fire fighters at the time, they couldn’t understand that he was trapped and the community and citizens who called in were trying to tell them that he was still in the area that they eventually found him in," said Hartford Fire Chief Rodney Barco.

The 12-year-old's death prompted the city to make some changes and have a department more representative of the community they serve. And over four decades later, they're seeing the results.

"We have a very diverse department which is 33% African American, 34% Latino, and about 36% Caucasian," Barco said.

Proceeds raised from the tournament go toward the Julio Lozado Foundation, a group that seeks to improve quality of life and youth education opportunities in the greater Hartford region.

The players take the mission and the game very seriously.

"This is for us the day, we’ve been waiting for this," Hartford firefighter Vifredo Santai said.

"We’ve won the first four and have no plans on losing any year," said Hartford Police Captain Gabriel Laureano.

Both fire and police department players acknowledge the intense sibling rivalry that takes place during the game, but they’re thankful that tragedy has turned into triumph and that they can support a great cause.

"We need all kinds of minorities, genders we need that. That makes any organization, any department stronger," Santai said.

"What better way to get back to the city that we serve in and all work so hard in then to get together and send someone to college to help the foundation and raise funds for a scholarship? So every year, we look forward to this because it’s just an amazing thing," Laureano said.

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